The director of operations at a home décor steel business in Alabama and Marshall County High School graduate is sharing his experiences of leadership — both good and bad — in an effort to inspire others.
Kevin Newcom, who graduated from MCHS in 2011 and works for Redline Steel in Decatur, Alabama, admits he’s seen his share of “toxic leaders” in his life, but has taken lessons learned on what not to do when instructing others, and lessons learned the opposite way to improve his life and leadership skills to better his community.
“I know that leadership is something that allows people to want to work harder if you have a leader that will work right beside you; so trying to lead by example,” Newcom said. “As long as you take care of the person to your left and your right and have their best interests at heart, they’re going to do the same for you.”
Newcom’s parents were Marines when he was born in Japan. They moved to Kentucky and he grew up in Benton from ages 5-13 before the family moved to Alabama when his father accepted a position with JMS Russel Metals. They returned to Kentucky for Newcom’s junior and senior years.
He said he wasn’t sure what to do with his life and figured he would go to college after graduation. After briefly attending Murray State University, he decided to join the Army National Guard and hopefully find his purpose.
“I was 18 and came to the mindset that I wanted to give back; I wanted to serve something bigger than myself,” Newcom said.
While his family were Marines, Newcom said he wasn’t sure if he wanted to follow fully in their footsteps but did want to experience military life. He immediately fell in love with it. And it was there he ignited his leadership spark.
Before his 22 weeks of basic training and one state unit training, Newcom was told the best way to get through it was to not stand out and keep to yourself. “If they don’t know your name by the end of it, you’ve won,” he said. “I didn’t believe that.”
When his drill instructors sought a platoon leader, Newcom was intrigued despite the initial guidance to lay low.
“This was one person of 40-50 individuals who they wanted to lead the platoon and who would answer to the drill sergeants. When I heard that, I immediately wanted it,” he said. He eventually held that role for six straight months.
“It gave me motivation to be better because I had other people depending on me and not just myself, Newcom added. “That’s where the fire was put into me as far as leadership.”
After selling cars in Marshall County, he took a challenge form his father to work in the metal industry. His first job was with JMS in Paducah where he applied the leadership ideals he picked up in the National Guard and became an assistant supervisor in six months.
Newcom stayed with JMS in Alabama through 2018 and worked two more years at another metal operation as a plant manager before taking on a similar role with Redline Steel and CEO, social media guru and entrepreneur Colin Wayne Erwin.
When Newcom joined Redline Steel, sales and marketing were going non-stop which made it difficult for operations to keep pace. After helping with a restructure, he was promoted to director of operations for one of the largest customized steel manufacturers in the country.
Newcom said he uses an acronym that makes up the Army core values of leadership, spelled “LDRSHIP.” He explained that the “L” is for loyalty, “D” is for duty, “R” is for respect, “S” is committing self to service, “H” is honor, “I” is integrity, and “P” is personal courage.
With that, he said he also has picked up different aspects of leaders to keep and retains them in his internal “tool box.”
“I take the tools that I might need for my future leadership career that I like and I put them at the top of that box, and the ones I maybe don’t like and I discard those,” he said. “I’m no where near a perfect leader by any means — I have a lot of growth I need to go through myself — but I’ve had some great leaders in my time who have helped me get where I am today.”
His next step is to reach as many people as possible with his story and ideals. He and fellow leaders in Decatur have created a 501©3 to help network and reach out into their community and make a difference, as well.
“The biggest thing is believing in yourself and understanding it doesn’t matter where you come from or what you’ve done, you can always make a new day today and be the best you possibly can to be successful in whatever your endeavors are,” Newcom added.